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I haven’t slept for three days straight, and things are beginning to get strange. I keep hearing faint, disconcerting whispers from far-off places. Shadows dance across my peripheral vision, but when I turn to look at them there’s nothing there. A cursory glance at my clothes reveals the minutest of fibres magnified to the size of shoestrings. Worst of all is the toilet with its pulsating floor like a carpet of writhing maggots. Best not mention it to the others, I think; they’ll find out for themselves soon enough. For me, it’s already proving problematic. I’ve been uncontrollably excreting a perfectly clear and unusually odourless liquid at hourly intervals.
Dawn is breaking in Ibiza. Strewn across a play park at the top of San Antonio’s West End, just outside the apartment block I’ve called home for the past four months, is a gaggle of 12 or so friends, workmates and hangers-on – all oversized vests and scruffy denim shorts, arms strung with wristbands and bellies full of Eroski vodka. Ricardo Villalobos was masterful at Cocoon. The villa party that followed was an genuine (albeit unrelenting) highlight of the summer. And now, as we approach 70 hours without sleep, we’re deep into an after-afterparty at my neighbour's place. I’m not quite sure how or why we ended up outside. But I’m about to bring things to an unceremonious end with a simple question: “Is there sand in my drink?"
It all began with handshakes and pleasantries in a neon West End bar. I was feigning enthusiasm through a merciless hangover, taking a seat with five others in an empty, air-conditioned room. Our new boss wove between us, delivering a hyperactive presentation on the ins and outs of the role: hours, targets, pay, the usual first-day stuff. “And,” he ends with a handclap, “whoever gets the most people in the club each week – wearing your initialed wristbands – wins a gram of anything they like.”
The decision to spend the summer working in Ibiza wasn’t a particularly considered one. A few weeks after drunkenly proposing the idea to a couple of mates back home, there we were, checking into a beachside hotel for a fortnight. My aims for these 14 days were simple: get a job, find somewhere to live and be thrifty with what little money I had. Two weeks passed in a haze of sunburned days and twisted nights, and I found myself jobless, homeless and skint. I find myself seriously considering selling drugs – going as far as placing an order with a notorious San Antonio dealer – but the thought of getting caught, spending Christmas in a 6x9ft cell, the submissive wife to hairy man named Pablo, acts as an overwhelming deterrent.
I even contemplate the H-word: home. Eventually I answer an advert in the Ship Inn looking for PRs for a new night at one of the big clubs. Not only do I get the job – which, it transpires, pays in grams as well as much-needed Euros – but a workmate points me in the direction of a vacant, one-bedroom basement flat. It’s dark, damp and smelly, overrun with cockroaches, has no natural light and offers little change out of €800 a month. I take it.
“Is it possible I use your shower?” the Slovakian witch is asking me as I splash towards her in an inch of water. “It’s flooded. It’s fucking flooded. Again!” my flatmate shouts as he walks in the front door. He’s barely audible over the sound of Luciano’s remix of Los Updates ‘Getting Late’, turned all the way up to tinnitus, and the chatter of the 30 or so people camped out in my living room and kitchen. “The shower?” I ask the witch, thinking I’ve heard her wrong. “Yes. Is it possible?” comes the reply. “I have some problem – with the pee,” she adds, pointing to her crotch. I hear something expensive-sounding shatter in the living room just as the witch enters the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
The Dungeon, as my apartment soon becomes known, turns out to be a thoroughfare for all kinds of brilliant freaks and weirdos, randoms from clubs and strangers off the street, cross-dressing bodybuilders and celebrity dwarves. And, a little too often, the Guardia Civil. Days are spent combing the beaches of San Antonio, armed with flyers, free CDs and wristbands, hotfooting it from the Guardia while illegally coaxing holidaymakers to a fledgling night at an Ibiza Town club. Nights are for cobbling together enough money for this week’s unmissable event, chasing whispers of secret beach parties and following strangers into the hills on the promise of some sprawling villa. And at the heart of it all is The Dungeon.
It’s the scruffy little centre of my world. The venue for unforgettable pre-parties, after-parties and parties-that-weren’t-supposed-to-be-parties. A place where friends from home stay while on holiday, kindly chipping in with the rent, and leave with swine flu and psychological scars of screaming bad acid trips. Where words like “stolen boat”, “watching DVDs” and “lizard people” trigger vivid memories and fits of uncontrollable laughter. All the fun of a holiday, augmented and stretched out over four debauched months. Home to an orgy of excess. A place that, despite its dilapidated appearance, inspires the unique feeling of waking up every morning knowing there’s nowhere else in the world you’d rather be.
As the September sun rises over the play park outside my apartment block, approaching the 72-hour mark without sleep, everyone reassures me there definitely isn’t any sand in my drink. I’m not so sure – I can feel it in my throat. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation, maybe it’s the substances that have deprived us of sleep, but within a couple of minutes everyone around me is equally convinced there’s sand in their drinks. It’s time for bed. It’s almost time to fly home. But there’s always next year...
IBIZA WORKER DOS AND DONT'S
DO get some kind of home insurance and make sure your accommodation is secure. Apartments are robbed all the time in Ibiza, your stuff can be expensive to replace, and filling in forms in Spanish at the police station is a very tedious way of spending your time.
DO show the police respect – they are not known for their patience and restraint when it comes to foreign workers. If you see them coming get out of the way.
DO ask everyone and anyone for guestlist places and even club cards. In Ibiza, if you don’t ask, you don’t get – especially if you have something to offer in exchange.
DON'T panic if you can’t get a job in the first month. Many of the thousands who come out to work will chuck it by mid June.
DO have something to go home to. Anything. A job, uni, somewhere to live, a significant other, a cat … Ibiza blues after a two-week holiday are nothing compared to the spirit-crushing desperation of returning from a summer there.
DO some planning. Unless you’re a returning worker or well-connected it’s tricky getting a job before you actually get on the island. But you can at least find out when and where “auditions” are. And you can sort out somewhere decent to live before you get there – try www.ibizapropertyshop.com
DON'T go over there without a Euro to your name. Take some savings, if you can. Enough to cover a month’s rent and deposit is good – enough to cover your rent for the whole summer is perfect.
DON'T pace yourself. A summer in Ibiza feels almost as fleeting a fortnight’s holiday. Say yes to everything. With everyone. No matter what time of day or night.